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Staples Left Without Principal Options After Greenwich Finalist Fizzles Out

Staples High Principal John Dodig is retiring at the end of the school year.
Staples High Principal John Dodig is retiring at the end of the school year. Photo Credit: File

WESTPORT, Conn. -- After 11 years as principal at Staples High School in Westport, John Dodig will retire at the end of June. Dodig began as an interim choice in 2004—one year after renovations of the outdated and over-capacity building had begun.

Dodig is leaving Staples, once again crowded—if not overcrowded—but now one of the most acclaimed high schools in the state.

His successor will be an interim choice -- and not for lack of effort. The search committee created a list of 12 candidates, but two top picks took other positions during Westport’s process.

The third finalist, Shelley Somers, principal at Central Middle School in Greenwich, became the top choice. But after what one observer termed a “flat” and “low energy” presentation under “harsh” questioning by Staples parents at a community meeting last week, she removed herself from consideration.

Did she jump, or was she pushed? A little of both, it appears.

With Board of Education members attending as listeners, questioners homed in on two points: that 20 years ago Somers left a sleeping child alone in a van for 45 minutes; and that she lacks high school leadership experience.

In the end, many wondered whether Somers had the stuff to succeed the popular Dodig—who was recently named High School Principal of the Year.

One might speculate whether Somers left, scarred by the experience, and wondering whether the questioning was just the way Westport does due diligence, or a precursor to the sort of oversight she would have been subject to—at least until she proved herself.

And one might also ask whether the Board of Education would have supported her, knowing afterward what may not have clear before the community meeting.

Somers obviated the decision by putting Staples behind her and staying in Greenwich.

Though it may be reasonable to ask whether, in the Age of Google, was Somers' candidacy a misjudgment by the search committee?

Board of Education Chair Michael Gordon said early in the public vetting, “We will only recruit and hire a star.” So the takeaway has to be that Westport wants an unblemished persona with standout leadership experience at the helm of its flagship school.

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